Pope sharpens tone on abuse scandals

It had been known for some time that the abuse scandal had spread to the Catholic "stronghold" of Ireland, after the Church in the USA and Australia. However, the extent of the problem, especially in the capital diocese of Dublin, was made clear by the "Murphy Commission Report" presented at the end of November. According to the report, written by Judge Yvonne Murphy, the Archdiocese of Dublin allegedly systematically covered up cases of clergy sexual abuse for 30 years – particularly between 1975 and 2004. On Friday, this report was the subject of a summit meeting of Pope Benedict XVI. and curia leaders with Ireland's church leaders.

The Irish church leadership, in particular Primate Sean Brady and Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, already stepped into the breach on 26 September. The Pope appeared before the TV cameras immediately after the report was presented. They expressed deep "shock and shame," apologized to the victims and their families, promised clarification – and coordinated their action with the Vatican. After a three-day plenary meeting of their bishops' conference in Dublin at the beginning of the week, they laid out a strategy for dealing with the new crisis with the pope and his responsible staff on Friday. With strikingly emotional words, the communique of the Vatican-Irish Church Summit published after the meeting condemns the scandalous misconduct of priests. The Pope is shocked, he shares the indignation, the feeling of betrayal and the shame of the Irish public. The perpetrators had broken their promise to God and committed treason against the communities entrusted to them. At the same time, the pope announces a decisive clarification and measures to prevent a recurrence. The Vatican is following the line it had set with the U.S., but developing it further. In the U.S., Benedict XVI had. presented a three-step plan: A legal clarification – in terms of zero tolerance for pedophiles; a pastoral reappraisal that seeks to "heal" the victims' injuries; effective preventive mechanisms – especially in the selection of seminarians. During his 2008 trip to the United States, Benedict XVI. Unfolded this three-step process again, personally apologizing to all victims and those affected. In Ireland, the pope apparently wants to go one step further. The Vatican communique announces a pastoral letter to the faithful of Ireland. In it, the head of the church will not only present his apology, but – as a sign of increased transparency – outline and discuss the initiatives the church intends to take in response to this situation. In addition, Rome – this is also new – wants to examine questions of episcopal ministry, including their ultimate responsibility for pastoral care of children. This could have personnel consequences very soon. Bishop Donal Brendan Murray of Limerick, who as auxiliary bishop in Dublin between 1982 and 1996 was responsible for some cover-ups, is reported to have offered his resignation to the pope. If the accusations prove to be justified, replacement would be the logical next step in dealing with the scandal.

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Christina Cherry
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